The purpose of creating an estate plan is to leave behind a meaningful legacy or protect the people that you love the most. Too many people keep putting the process off. Procrastination leaves some people without a plan when they die earlier than they thought they would.
Sadly, even those who create estate plans could wind up having their wishes undermined by family members or the courts. Why do estate plans fail to do what the people who created them intended? Is there anything that can help you determine if your estate is particularly vulnerable?
You used generic documents and broad language
Some people rely on pre-existing paperwork that they simply add their name and personal information to when creating their estate plan.
Generic forms and imprecise language could lead to misinterpretation of your intentions by your executor or the courts. Fill-in-the-blank paperwork, especially digital forms not signed in front of witnesses, may wind up thrown out by the probate courts if someone challenges your estate.
You made decisions that family members won’t be happy about
Dissatisfaction or disappointment with an inheritance can push someone to challenge the wishes of a loved one after they die. If you chose to disinherit one of your children or give most of your property to charity, your heirs might resent your decisions. If people aren’t aware ahead of time that you don’t want to leave them anything, they made challenge your estate because they can’t believe you set those terms.
You waited too late to create your estate plan or changed it late in life
Cognitive decline and lack of testamentary capacity are common reasons that family members can get a will thrown out by the probate courts. The older you are and the more serious your medical condition is when you create your estate, the greater the risk is of family members claiming elect testamentary capacity at the time of signing.
Making a thorough and customized estate plan that you frequently revisit and update can help you protect your legacy and your loved ones. The same is true for being open with your family members about your intentions so that they don’t feel surprised or hurt about your wishes.